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‘Fast-track’ trade bill approved by US Senate, awaits President’s nod

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Washington: The US Senate on Wednesday approved a so-called fast-track trade bill that empowers the president to negotiate trade deals, media reported on Thursday.

The bill will now be sent to President Barack Obama for signing.

The 60 to 38 Senate vote capped weeks of fighting over the trade bill and gave a big push for the Obama administration’s trade agenda.

The fast-track legislation, formally known as Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), empowers the president to negotiate trade deals and then present them to Congress for up or down vote, with no amendments allowed.

With the legislation passed by the full Congress, it will give the US trading partners the confidence they need to put their best offers on the table and help the Obama administration conclude the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade talks, which are nearing completion after more than five years of negotiations. (IANS)

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US-North Korea Tensions: Are we on the brink of Destruction?

The US is the only country on Earth, which has committed the gruesome act of using nuclear bombs against humanity. Towards the end of World War II, the then American President Harry S. Truman ordered Japan to surrender, or, “expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.”

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Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un
Leaders of United States of America and North Korea. Salil Gewali

– by Salil Gewali

Are we on the brink of destruction? Are our precious lives worthless in the hands of two lunatics? Can Mother Earth withstand another holocaust-this time a full-scale destruction? Will sanity prevail in those two demented heads?

Answers to these dreadful questions lie in Washington and Pyongyang. We, like the rest of the inhabitants in the lap of Mother Earth, can only be the dumb spectators. If the dreaded catastrophe befalls, it will be beyond our means to prevent, and beyond our means to survive. Yes, a series of a dreadful missile is being blasted off from the soil of North Korea too frequently. And it is duly matched with the more alarming thunders by the US President Donald Trump. It is frightful to imagine when these two capricious men will be losing their sensible judgment and start acting against the norms of humanity.

The US is the only country on Earth, which has committed the gruesome act of using nuclear bombs against humanity. Towards the end of World War II, the then American President Harry S. Truman ordered Japan to surrender, or, “expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.” He followed up his ultimatum by dropping nuclear bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the 6th and the 9th of August, 1945, killing around 200,000 people (Wikipedia).

This gruesome murder of innocent people can be attributed to the American arrogance of power, and affirmation of their destructive capacity. It has been termed as a war crime on humanity and a manifestation of state terrorism. Opponents of this kind of state terrorism argue that the American bombing was immoral and militarily unnecessary. The U.S. still justifies similar horrendous action against any nation, which does not subserve their interests. President Donald Trump’s shocking and outrageous utterances are extensions of the U.S. state behavior. It is frightful to imagine when this vacillating individual will act on his shocking threat of “fire and fury,” as his predecessor did (Article).

On the other hand, why does Kim Jong-un harbor a boundless grudge against the U.S.? Why is he inexhaustibly hostile to the U.S.? Why does Korean People’s Army plan to strike the U.S island of Guam and trigger a grievous conflict? Why does Kim provoke President Donald Trump for the deadliest conflict in history?

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Actually, the root cause of this conflict can be traced back to more than half-century. The conflict centers on the Korean War of 1950-53. The 38th parallel divided Korean Peninsula into two in 1948: the South Korea supported by the United States, and the North Korea supported by the then Soviet Union. The infamous Korean War broke out in the year 1950, the South Korea supported by the United States and its allies, and the North Korea supported by the then Soviet Union and China. Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong-un’s grandfather and the then dictator of North Korea fought this gruesome war against America and its allies with the support of the then Soviet Union and China. The War lasted till 1953, injuring or killing an estimated three million Koreans, ten percent of its overall population. This background left Kim Jong-un a wounded dictator. He has been planning a U.S. attack since 2013 (Amstrong). Recently, Pyongyang celebrated the anniversary of the war’s flare-up as “the day of struggle against U.S. imperialism.” (News, Conflict explained).

North Korea is estimated to have 60 nuclear weapons and it has the capability to produce at least six additional nuclear bombs every year. Their intercontinental ballistic missiles could travel about 10,400km putting almost the whole world within its range. North Korea claims it can mount nuclear warheads on its ballistic missiles. In September 2017, North Korea detonated its deadliest hydrogen bomb with an estimated yield of about 100 kilotons. This caused an earthquake measuring 6.3 magnitudes. The tremor was felt in China, about 400km away from the test site. It is worrying to learn that this H-bomb could be 1,000 times more powerful than the nuclear bomb dropped by the U.S. air (article)force on Hiroshima in World War II (News, North Korea testing nuclear weapons).

Experts estimate the casualties of a U.S. – North Korea conflict could be a minimum of one million. A nuclear attack by North Korea can decimate Los Angeles, Chicago, or New York. The U.S.’s anti –ICBM systems may defend the country from a usual test. But, experts opine, on the face of a sudden multiple ICBM’s assaults, the horrifying result could be unpredictable. Of course, the U.S.’s and its allies’ military assets stationed all over the world, including at striking distances could decimate North Korea in seconds. That could not justify the irreparable loss the U.S. would be inflicted upon (News, U.S.- North Korea conflict).

President Donald Trump and Dictator Kim Jong Un must introspect with all seriousness. They must exercise strategic restraint. They must avoid a potential flashpoint. They must think of a world outside their egomania. They must introspect on the devastating consequences of their protracted antagonism.  They must understand military provocations, militant statements. Crossing swords will not solve problems of this magnitude. So, they must listen to the reason and display the right statesmanship which the world’s citizens expect. They must display their compassion and exercise their prudence. They have never been mandated to hurt humankind and to injure the Earth crust.

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter @SGewali. 

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Did You Hear about the New Species of Spiders Named After Leonardo DiCaprio, Bernie Sanders and Barrack Obama?

The new species of spiders have been named in honor of leaders and artists who promoted sensible approaches for a better world

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Did you hear about the Bernie Sanders spider? (representational image) Pixabay

Vermont, September 30, 2017 : What if we tell you that a team of researchers has recognized and named 15 new species of spiders in the Caribbean after your favorite stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders?

Not in Hollywood, Washington, DC or Vermont – but you might now be able to catch a glimpse of Spintharus davidattenboroughi, S. barackobamai, S, michelleobamaae, S. berniesandersi, S. davidbowiei along with S. leonardodicaprioi on the Caribbean islands and some other southern spots.

Ingi Agnarsson, expert of spiders and professor of biology at University of Vermont, who led the new study revealed the rationale behind the undergraduate study and on choosing the intriguing names. “(We) wanted to honor people who stood up for both human rights and warned about climate change—leaders and artists who promoted sensible approaches for a better world”, he said.

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The Smiley-Faced Spider

Popularly recognized as a global hotspot for biodiversity, there continues to be several species in the Caribbean that are outside the spectrum of research and study. This includes the ‘smiley faced’ spider in the genus Spintharus- named for a smiley face pattern on their abdomens.

Previously recognized as one widespread species, researchers from the UVM discovered that there exist many more endemic species within the genus, 15 of which have been recognized in the research.

These samples were collected from Florida, South Carolina, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica, Mexico, the Lesser Antilles and Columbia.

Each team member got to decide names for the new species of spiders. Alongside naming them after friends and family members, many species have been named after distinguished figures.

“We all named the Bernie Sanders spider together,” said Lily Sargeant, one of the students who worked on the project. “We all have tremendous respect for Bernie. He presents a feeling of hope.”

Some of the other names include,

Spintharus davidbowiei

Named after the great artist David Bowie, who passed away in 2016. His music will continue to inspire generations and the authors decided to honor his legacy by naming a spider in his name.

Spintharus barackobamai

Named after the widely popular, and largely loved, former President of the United States Barack Obama. The authors love him for his statesmanship and humanitarianism, and named the spider species after him, to honor their president and his devoted service.

Spintharus michelleobamaae

Named in honor of the Former First Lady of the United States for her poise, confidence and elegance, her fight for human rights and for always striving to uphold the principles of justice, fairness and equality for all.

Spintharus davidattenboroughi

The authors of the research also named a species of spiders after the naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, to recognize and celebrate his efforts to educate people of the wonders of the natural world and sowing a seed of caring for nature in humanity.

The study has been published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.

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Are Roller Coasters plain Fun or Is there an Inherent Risk?

Children aged 10-14 yrs. are the ones who most often sustain injuries on roller coasters. As per US Consumer Product Safety Commission, Thousands of children get hurt each year and some of them even end up in the emergency room.

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Fun can be dangerous, In 2016, US registered number of serious medical cases caused by roller coaster rides. (Illustration by Sagrika Saraf, New Delhi)

– By Dr Bharti Raizada

In the United States of America, millions of people, young children, youth, adult, are fond of Rollercoaster rides. They want to have fun and feel the thrill with family and friends by trying out some new and fast roller coaster rides.

Latest roller coasters can drop you from 500 feet height and can accelerate from zero to 120 miles/hr within four seconds.

Is Roller Coaster Ride Safe?

The roller coaster rides are usually fun and safe. When compared with driving on roads, people are safer on the roller coasters. They are usually maintained in good shape and checked frequently. There are computer systems to ensure smooth rides and eliminate the chances of accidents and operator errors, however, accidents do happen.

Children aged 10-14 yrs. are the ones who most often sustain injuries on roller coasters. As per US Consumer Product Safety Commission, Thousands of children get hurt each year and some of them even end up in the emergency room. Spinal cord injuries and fractures are the possibilities of cases.

Injury rate increased 60 percent from 1996 to 2000 in which 10,580 injuries needed emergency treatment.

In the year 2016, around 30,900 emergency room visits were documented for injuries. During the years 1990 and 2004 at least 52 deaths were reported and 22 deaths since 2010 to present.

roller coaster
People on roller coaster ride. (image source: flick, available for reuse)

The major effects caused on the body by the twisting, turning, dropping, rising, and catapulting of the roller coasters are:

  • Blood flow rapidly changes in different parts of body
  • Blood pressure and heart rate increase
  • Brain fluid moves rapidly and pressure changes occur
  • Dizziness, spinning sensation feeling
  • Subdural hematoma or bleeding in brain can occur
  • Barotrauma to ears can occur because of ear fluid movement and pressure changes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stress disorder/PTSD

A person with pre-existing diseases and older aged people have higher risks, so they should avoid the roller coaster rides.

People who should avoid Roller coaster ride?

  • People with uncontrolled blood pressure
  • People with history of arrhythmia
  • People with spinal injuries
  • History of aneurysms
  • Stroke
  • Patients on anticoagulants/sedatives
  • Pregnant females
  • Every ride has Height and weight specifications.

People falling in the above categories should strictly avoid the roller coaster rides. A normal person can feel Dizziness, Excessive and abnormal sleepiness, confusion, headache, sinking feeling, lightheadedness and blackout soon after the roller coaster rides. These can occur even a few days after the ride.

So next time when you go for a roller coaster ride, keep these associated dangers in mind. If you do not feel comfortable do not go for this thrill. Do not get pressurized by your children. Roller coasters can have medical consequences. Be vigilant all the time and follow your instinct. Stay safe!